09/04/2017, 21.42
PAKISTAN
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Deceived by Sharif's daughter, Lahore archbishop rejects campaigning from pulpit

by Kamran Chaudhry

Maryam Nawaz failed to make the address agreed with the archdiocese. She was only supposed to ask for prayers for her sick mother. "I wanted to stop her but millions were watching live on their television screens. At one moment, I decided to walkout as boycott, but then it could have been detrimental for Church relations with authorities." News media have political interests.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – "We do not agree with political usage of sacred pulpit by the daughter of former Prime Minister. This has hurt the sentiments of Christians not only in Pakistan but around the world. We officially apologies for what happened," said Mgr Sebastian Francis Shaw, archbishop of Lahore, in an exclusive interview with AsiaNews.

The Franciscan bishop has now banned political leaders from using Church buildings as a venue for political campaign. "A directive has been issued to all churches. The Church microphone and pulpit will not be given to politicians,” he said. “Although Church doors are still open for prayers and blessings of anyone who comes in," he added.

The visit of the daughter of former premier Nawaz Sharif to Lahore’s Cathedral of the Sacred Heart on Friday triggered a media campaign against the bishop. Maryam Nawaz, who is now campaigning in a special election on 17 September, asked worshippers to support her father, who was forced out of power by the Supreme Court following the Panama Papers scandal.

She came with Anglican Bishop Azad Marshall and some Christian politicians, Federal Minister for Statistics Kamran Michael, and Provincial Minister for Minority Affairs and Human Rights Khalil Tahir Sindhu.

According to Mgr Shaw, Maryam was given four minutes to speak to the media and those in attendance in Church.

"The Christian politicians called me two days ago and explained that her only objective was to pray for her ailing mother,” the bishop explained.

“We agreed upon a draft speech briefly mentioning her 11 years of studies at the Convent of Jesus and Mary school and the student career of the former prime minister at St Anthony's High School. Both institutes are operated by the Lahore Archdiocese. She was supposed to conclude with prayer requests for her ailing mother. We gave her the opportunity because of her faith and her acquaintance with ruling party."

The agreed plan, which started at the end of monthly novena devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, went as laid out until Michael started promoting his party.

"I sensed that situation was turning unpleasant,” the prelate noted. “I could hear members of the Punjab assembly arguing with organisers for the opportunity to speak as well.”

“Maryam transgressed by asking for votes for her father. I wanted to stop her but millions were watching live on their television screens. At one moment, I decided to walkout as boycott, but then it could have been detrimental for Church relations with authorities. We need their aid to help persecuted Christians and take back our nationalised schools and properties." 

The archbishop rejects the allegations against him, like interrupting the prayer in the cathedral. "The speeches started at the end of the monthly novena of Sacred Heart of Jesus. Some say I have been dismissed by Vatican," he said.

"The media generally focused on the speech of Sharif's daughter because to them, that's the breaking news. They have a political interest. My address was not shown on news channels and this created confusion in the Christian community. Only our own Catholic TV showed my concluding remarks. These video clips will be shown in Christian neighborhoods to further awareness."

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